LONDON (AFP) – Ronald Koeman says he is over the disappointment of being sacked by Everton and anticipating a “great game” against England on Friday in what will be his first match as Netherlands coach.
The 54-year-old European Cup and Euro 1988 winner – who lost his job in October after his $196 million spending spree backfired spectacularly – accepts returning the Dutch to their status as one of world football’s heavyweights is going to take time.
Koeman replaced the veteran Dick Advocaat, who had been one in a raft of unsuccessful appointments for the Oranje since Louis van Gaal stepped down after finishing third in the 2014 World Cup, in February.
The size of the task facing Koeman is a massive one as the Dutch – who were World Cup finalists in 2010 – have failed to reach either Euro 2016 or this year’s World Cup.
“We are here,” Koeman told the Daily Mail.
“It is a new challenge. It is one I couldn’t say no to.
“It is an honour to be the Holland coach and I am looking forward with all I have to trying to get the country moving forward again. “I want to take us to the next big tournament in 2020. That is the aim.
“It is a big and difficult challenge. Everybody knows this. We have not qualified for the last two big tournaments and, OK, it is going to take time.”
Koeman – who failed to persuade Bayern Munich striker Arjen Robben to revoke his decision to retire from international football – faces an England side that will be going to the World Cup.
The English are also a team Koeman will forever be associated with because of his professional foul on David Platt in the 1994 World Cup qualifier for which he escaped with just a booking.
He scored a few minutes later to rub salt into the wounds and the Dutch went on to win 2-0, which was to prove decisive in them going to the finals as group runners-up instead of the English.
“It is going to be a great game,” said Koeman of Friday’s friendly.
Koeman, who was capped 78 times between 1982-94, scoring 14 goals, said he had had enough time to rediscover his managerial vim since the shattering disappointment of losing the Everton job.
“After Everton, where everyone knew it was really difficult towards the end, I needed time to focus again,” said Koeman.
“I needed to recover. I have had a good time to relax. I work because I want to work.
“Even after that decision (his sacking), I was still crazy about football.
“I wanted to be involved as a coach, I wanted to be with the national team and this was the right time to try the challenge – for me and the national team.”